Service dog brightens senior living community
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2013
2/16/13 at 4:43 AM
In a Valentine's Day card penned to Simone, a 3-year-old golden retriever and resident pet at Saint Simeon's Episcopal Home, a girl named Hannah writes that someday, she'll have a dog like Simone.
"Simone you are so sweet, that's why I like golden retrievers," Hannah writes. "You're the only golden retriever I know. Love, Hannah."
And it is that sweetness that makes Simone II so beloved a pet, doted on by many Saint Simeon's residents and families.
On a recent morning, Simone is making her runs to different residents' rooms that promise her treats and love. First, it's the Evanses, the apartment of a couple who've been married more than 60 years. Soon with a stuffed animal dangling from her mouth, Simone is trotting to Ruth Kraemer's. Sitting on the edge of her daybed, Kraemer leans over to pet Simone.
"She's very loving," Kraemer says. "So she makes a good pet for all of us. I think we've all had cats and dogs before we came here and I miss the ones I used to have."
Kraemer likes to scratch Simone's chin, and Simone - who when she opens her mouth, tends to look like she's smiling - well, she likes to have her chin scratched.
"You smiling, Simone? She's a good smiling dog."
Kraemer says Simone makes her feel like she's at home.
Saint Simeon's Education Director Kathy Hinkle and "mom" to Simone - she goes home with Hinkle in the evening - spoke with us about Simone and what the young dog has brought to Saint Simeon's.
1. Why are service dogs often golden retrievers?
They're very intelligent, very easily trained. And because they're retrievers, they've been bred to have the most gentle of mouths, so that when they retrieve - when a hunter shoots a duck for instance - they won't harm a feather on it. They're not going to tear things up, they're not hunters.
(Simone II arrived in Tulsa while the first Simone was still living but did not start working at the facility until Simone I - who worked at Saint Simeon's for 13 years - passed away in late 2010.)
2. How was Simone II chosen?
We looked all over the United States. We needed to have the right health - a dog whose ancestry didn't have any hip dysplasia or heart conditions or any of those things that can shorten a dog's life. And then from that litter, the breeder was able to judge the temperament of the puppies and select one that was gentle and wanting to be with people ... and beautiful.
3. Beyond visiting with residents here, what else does Simone do?
She goes to funerals here, parties, parades - recently, Simone was the hot dog in the Mardi Gras parade. She respects the peacocks seen walking around in the courtyard but is a "mortal enemy" of squirrels. (She likes to chase them.)
She goes on a two-mile walk each morning in Gilcrease Hills where she lives, so she gets her morning exercise. She goes on weekend hikes in Mohawk Park.
4. Does Simone have a favorite activity?
It's having people pet her. We all like that. I think that's what she lives for. She runs in here every day carrying some stuffed animal - whichever one she chose to take home that night - eager to be here and is welcomed by everybody, the dietary department, the maintenance department, the residents, all the staff, the visitors. She leads a wonderful life and in turn she can return that love to everybody.
5. What are Saint Simeon's favorite rescue organizations?
PAL - Pet Adoption League, STAR - Sandite Team Animal Rescue and SPCA.
6. What does Simone bring to Saint Simeon's?
She makes (Saint Simeon's) more like a home. Also, a lot of people feel like she's their dog since they can't have dogs living here.
The whole point in having a pet - especially a dog - but any animal, is so the unexpected happens. You don't want it to be boring and the same routine, you want the residents to have interesting experiences each day, and there's just nothing better than petting a dog - especially when you remember your dogs.
People will come out to see her, when they wouldn't leave their room otherwise, but "Oh, is Simone going to be there?" Well then the nurse aide can get them to come out because they're going to get to see Simone.
She's friendly. She's a morale booster. She calms people.
To friend Simone on Facebook, visit her page at facebook.com/simonesaintsimeons
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Original Print Headline: Service dog warms senior living
Happy Birthday, Simone
Simone II, born in Green Bay, Wis., on April 1, will be celebrating her fourth birthday through a big bash at Saint Simeon's at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2. Her big birthday wish this year is to help other canines find a home, so Saint Simeon's will be hosting a few adoptable dogs from local dog rescue groups. The event is open to the public, and birthday cake for both dogs and humans (two different cakes) will be served.
For more information, call 918-425-3583.
Simone visits Ruth Kraemer at Saint Simeon's Senior Living Community. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World